Shackles of Habit

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  Two nights ago, B stayed home with the boys so I could go to Temple.  Usually, I sit with B’s family (aunt, uncle, and grandmother), but when I got there, I couldn’t see whether they were in their usual spot.  It was also so packed that I didn’t even know if there was an open seat by them.  I wound up sitting in the back all by myself.  It wasn’t bad, though, because I had some time to pray and think.

I was thinking about my A Self Divided post when I came upon the following line in my prayer book:

Will You open our prisons
Release from us shackles of habit?

Suddenly, something occurred to me.  My "religious side" (as I put it in my last post) wasn’t clinging to the six hour rule over valid religious arguments, but out of habit.  I have been following that rule for about two decades and changing something that you’ve done for that long, it’s hard to change.

Now, I value change.  I happen to think that it isn’t "flip floping" when a politician changes his position provided he does so based on new information.  I also think that religions need to be able to change as the world changes.  In my opinion, many of the reasons behind certain religious rules no longer apply in today’s world and should be done away with.  Yet, how could I expect my religion to change if I was unwilling to change?  Unfortunately, I (like many people) often find it hard to change.  I cling to old practices far longer than I should.


Case in point: When I was in college, I decided to grow a beard.  It was ugly, didn’t match the rest of my hair for some odd reason, and made me look over 30 years old.  All my friends were candid about how awful it made me look and tried to get me to shave, but I persisted.  Finally, I decided to shave it off.  Good thing, too.  B hates facial hair!

When I first began following the 6 hour rule, I was in Hebrew School.  I was told that it took 6 hours for meat to digest in your stomach and that was the reason for the wait.  However, when I recently looked into reasons for waiting between eating milk and meat, nothing mentioned digestive durations.  So I really shouldn’t hold onto 6 hours simply because "that’s the way I always did it."

This doesn’t mean that I’m about to ditch all of my religious beliefs.  I still believe in many of them.  This particular one, though, had been vexing me for some time.  Deep down, I knew that I should move to waiting 3 hours, but I was afraid to change.  I can’t say that I’m entirely fearless now, but I’m willing to make the change and see how things go.

Habit can be a strong force to overcome.  Are there any things that you do completely out of habit?

Bingo II: Revenge Of The Debate

As I said in my last entry, Palin Bingo was such a success that I decided to make another run of it for the upcoming Presidential debates.  I’ve removed the Palin-specific words (like "Trig", "Todd", and "Alaska") and added in some words that we missed the last time around.  In fact, we’ve added 71% more words.  There are actually 20 quindecillion (2 * 1049) possible Bingo cards.

I also added in some cool effects using jQuery (my favorite JavaScript library) and two plugins for it – the jQuery Corner Plugin and the jQuery Gradient Plugin.

Finally, I changed the center Free space.  You can now to choose Obama or McCain in the center (or opt to have it randomly filled).  It’s up to you whether that means that the Bingo game is only in play if Obama is talking, McCain is talking, or either one.

The debate is in a couple of days (as I post this), so spread the word.  Tell your family and friends.  Print out your Debate Bingo cards, pop some popcorn, and play Debate Bingo!

Suggestions For Upcoming Debate Bingo

Palin Bingo was such a success (984 Palin Bingo cards created) that I decided to modify it for the upcoming Presidential Debate.  I’ve stripped the list of “Palin-specific” words (like Trig, Todd, Alaska, etc).  I’ve also added some Obama-McCain words (“Change” and “Hope”) as well as some words that my wife and I can’t believe we missed.  (How could we not have included “Main Street” or “Economy”?)

I’m sure there are words that I’ve still missed, so here is your chance to contribute.  If your word is accepted, you win a Free Debate Bingo board.  (What?  I’m giving them away for free anyway?  Shhh… Some people might think it’s a prize!  😉 )  The only rule to word selection is that it had to be something that one (or both) candidate might realistically say.

Also, it can’t be a word that I already have.  Here’s my list so far:

Bridge to No Where, Russia, Maverick, Alaska, Washington outsider, Pro-Life, Oil, Obama, Clinton, Community Organizer, Executive Experience, McCain, Taxes, Drill, Pork Barrel, Earmarks, Wall Street, Canada, Media, Conservative, Foreign Policy, Georgia, United Nations, Iraq, Iran, Bail-out, Terrorist, Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, Ahmadinejad, Polls, President Bush, Lobbyist, Washington Insider, 9-11, Putin, Reformer, Main Street, Economy, Meltdown, Military, Negotiations, Washington Outsider, Energy Independence, Biden, Palin, Hope, Change, Liberal

So let’s hear those Bingo Words/Phrases everybody!

A Little VP Debate Fun

During Rosh Hashana, my wife and I were talking about the upcoming VP debate.  We were laughing about how someone came up with a Palin Drinking Game and were convinced that one would inevitably wind up drunk way too quickly.  So we came up with another idea: Palin Bingo!

A few (ok, 73) phrases later and some quick coding and we have a workable Palin Bingo!  Just load the page and print out a card.  Refresh the page and, since the phrases are chosen at random, you’ll get a whole new card.  So print them out for friends and family and let’s play!

Play Palin Bingo!

BTW, there appear to be other Palin Bingo games out there.  I happen to think this one is the best.  Then again, I’m biased since I wrote this one.

A Self Divided

It’s hard, but I’ll admit it.  I’m split in two.  On one hand, I’m a pretty scientific thinker.  I love reading about new scientific advances, am a big fan of using the scientific method, and don’t want Intelligent Design taught in science class.  On the other hand, I’m pretty religious.  I keep Kosher (to some degree), I observe Shabbat (mostly), and I go to Temple (during holidays).  I value both aspects of me, but they can often go to war with each other.

For example, I wait 6 hours from eating meat until I’ll eat dairy.  That means if I eat a hamburger at 7pm, I can’t eat a piece of cake made with butter until 1am.  This wait has resulted in me becoming a near-vegetarian.  When offered the choice between a piece of meat and the possibility of dessert, I go for dessert nearly every time.  Not that I regret this, mind you.  I’m not the biggest meat-lover around.  I’m happy using tofu/soy substitutes instead of meat.   However, it can complicate things sometimes.

Some people think I should tone down this wait time.  Her uncle, who is also religious, only waits 3 hours.  My parents (who aren’t religious, but who attend an Orthodox temple) know many Orthodox people who agree with the 3 hour rule.  So why do I wait 6 hours now?  Mostly because I was brought up that way.  In Hebrew School while growing up, I was told that one shouldn’t mix milk and meat.  In order to prevent meat and milk from being eaten during the same meal, a wait time of 6 hours was initiated.

Apparently, however, there are many different philosophies of how long you need to wait.  In Russia, Jewish communities set the wait time as 6 hours.  In Europe (Germany), the local Jewish communities set the wait time at 3 hours.  It all depended on how their meals were structured during the day.  The Germanic Jews were more likely to eat a meal between Lunch and Dinner and so could wait 3 hours before the next meal hit.  The Russians waited from Lunch until Dinner.

So where does that leave me?  Undecided (much to some people’s annoyance) for many months.  I’ve looked up the reasons behind the wait and found that I agree with some and don’t agree with others.  Even the ones I agree with, however, might be satisfied by a 3 hour wait.

So why not simply change?  If I’m going to be fully honest, it is for two main reasons:  1) I’ve been doing this for almost two decades now so a shift this major is quite a big deal.  2) I’m afraid of the Slippery Slope – that is, I’m afraid that this "minor" change will lead to more changes to (or pressures to change) my religious beliefs that I’m not prepared to make.

My scientific side has analyzed all of the arguments and has come to the conclusion that a 3 hour wait should be fine.  My religious side reads that the actual rule is "greater than 5 hours" and is only willing to yield to a 5 hour 1 minute wait.

So here I am stuck going over the same issue in my mind over and over.  The same arguments for and against.  I’m in a Red Queen’s Race and I can’t figure a way out.

Has anyone else ever experienced a split like this?  (Doesn’t have to be religious/science based.)  How do you come to a decision in a situation like this?

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